“Take all the time you need, and just go ahead and start whenever you’re ready.”
As actors we’ve all heard some version of this sentence as we’re getting ready to read audition sides, rehearse something, or perform in a scene. There isn’t an acting coach or director out there who is going to rush you when you’re acting! (Unless it’s David Mamet, and that only has to do with the pace with which the actor actually SAYS the lines. 😉
So for an actor to hear the news that, “Hey buddy, you’ve got to pick up the pace, here!” might be a little disconcerting for some. But that’s exactly what needs to happen – not in terms of your actual performing, but in a number of situations relating to actually booking the role. So let’s look at a few ways actors can unwittingly put themselves at the back of the line – or even take themselves out of consideration for a role altogether. Plus, we’ll talk about concrete steps you can take to get yourself in front of the casting director or production team before everyone else who’s vying for that role, and give yourself the best shot at booking it!
Submit On the Day
Look, we get it. Casting directors get it, directors get it, producers and everyone else in the business gets it: You’re busy. We all are. I don’t know of anyone in the business who isn’t.
But even with so many commitments, you’ve got to find a way to submit ON THE SAME DAY that a casting notice is put up. Far too many newbie actors make the mistake of thinking that just because the casting notice says something like “Submissions Open Until November 30” that submissions are REALLY open until November 30.
Technically, that may be the case, sure. But let’s refer back to Point One here: that CD is busy. And if 50 people submit themselves for the same role you’re going after on Day One, and you take your time and only bother to submit on the final day before the deadline, it’s likely that the role has already more or less been cast, or at least the short list has been created. Even the very best-case scenario is you get on the list, but you’re at the very bottom, below all those other people who responded right away and sent in their info the soonest.
Every CD is trying to cast the very best actor for the role, and that may include person number 99 out of 100 submissions from time to time. But do yourself a favor: get yourself to the front of the line! So check casting notices daily, multiple times a day. Also, have your alternative network channels open, keep your ear to the ground, and be ready to respond if you hear of an audition through the grapevine, or through a friend, or at another audition.
Call Them Back, For Chrissakes
Look, if a CD calls you and asks you to call back, or says they want to see you read, or even if they just want to check in with you and ask you about skills or availability or if you might be interested in a different role, CALL THEM BACK! Like RIGHT NOW!
Dude, what are you even doing? This is so insanely infuriating to hear about, but you’d be amazed at how many CDs mention this aspect of their job causing frustration: waiting for the actor to return a call. I mean, this is exactly the single precise thing you’ve been waiting, fighting, working, and struggling toward!
Just. Freaking. Call.
Take two minutes on your break at your day job, or if you’re at another audition tell the PA you’re stepping into the hall real quick, or annoy the other people in the waiting room at the STD clinic – whatever it takes, but call back right away if a CD calls you. Remember, they’re busy, and they’re under the gun from production to get this thing cast, whatever it is. They’re not going to wait around for actors who aren’t enthusiastic or who seem unavailable. You know you’ve got your phone with you, you know they called; just call them back!
Be Ready for the Call
Another self-destructive trait a lot of actors display when it comes to these kinds of situations is they hesitate to submit simply because they just aren’t prepared to do so when the call does come along. This is another huge self-own that can instantaneously prevent you from landing the dream role you’ve been fighting to get all your life! Do yourself a favor and take the time to prepare all your marketing materials and have them ready to go at a moment’s notice. This includes headshots and resumes of course – and for the love of God bring some of each along with you wherever you go, but especially to EVERY audition, as you never know who’s going to be there and who might want one.
But in this day and age you also need to be ready to rock a video submission for a self-tape audition.
How can you do that, you ask, given that you don’t know what the piece will be that you’ll be asked to read? Well, you can make sure you’re up to speed – literally – on how to produce a slick, clean, and tight video audition tape when the call does come in. I have gotten so many last-minute calls from actors desperately asking for help in how to record a video submission, how to edit it, what it needs to look like, etc. What each of those calls mean that that actor is running late when it comes to getting their materials in to the people who make the decisions, and that means they’re stressed, and nervous, and that means their submission even when it’s finally ready won’t be their best work.
Save yourself this headache. Take an afternoon to work with your computer or phone and record yourself doing some monologues. Get a set-up prepared – tripod, backdrop, proper sound levels, proper camera distance – and note exactly what works so you don’t have to screw around figuring it out at the last minute when time is of the essence. And lock down an actor friend to be your reader when needed – one that you will commit to helping in the same way – and just go through the process of recording and editing a scene or monologue several times until it becomes second nature. Also, don’t forget that if you join NYCastings, you can DirectSubmit on your own as well as post self-tapes, swapping them out with new ones as you improve.
Practice Makes Perfect
It can’t be stressed enough that all the preparations mentioned above don’t really mean anything if you don’t have the chops – or the confidence to deliver when you do get that call. Make sure you’re working your craft every day, reading scripts, running monologues, hitting stand-up open mics, working with an improv group, taking classes and of course auditioning.
There’s nothing worse than getting called in to read for a CD and not being ready with the nuts and bolts of being an actor. So make sure you’ve got your A-game locked and loaded when the call comes in so you can book that dream role and take your career to the next level!